Category Archives: Urban planning

Our urban nation

A longtime nation of coastal dwellers, Australia’s population is now one of the most urbanised in the world. It’s all in the numbers.

A total of 16 million Australians (80%) now live in cities and towns, according to Our Cities, the federal government’s urban policy discussion paper, which was published last month. By 2031, the Australian Bureau of Statistics predicts that 20 million of the estimated national population of 28 million will be urbanised.

It looks like most of us will have to get used to living in denser environments, in closer proximity to our neighbours. Our health and happiness will be increasingly dependent on the quality of our housing developments – not least the acoustic insulation.

Living Memory – public art as social history

Frasers Property’s landmark Central Park development is starting to take shape in Sydney’s inner suburb of Chippendale.  The scheme’s extensive public parkland is scheduled to open in mid-2011 and I’m particularly excited about Jean Nouvel’s stunning design for the central building, which is to rise from the rubble of the old brickworks, replete with “vertical hanging gardens.”

Frasers has recently announced its Artists In Residence (A.I.R.) public art project, which will be located at the site of the old brewery yard buildings and brick stack from March 2011.  Artists’ juicy brief for the A.I.R. initiative, from art advisor Michaelie Crawford, was to reflect “the history, fluids, processes and intoxications of the site’s brewing past.”

Living Memory by Andrew Brook

Artist Brook Andrew’s response, entitled Living Memory, will see large scale 3m high black and white portraits of some of the locality’s former residents adorn the old brewery building.

Brook’s evocation of Chippendale’s former resident labourers will offer a poignant reminder of the gathering pace of gentrification and social change in Sydney’s inner west.

Commuter suburbs and the erosion of social capital

Disconnected, the new book by Dr Andrew Leigh, MP for Fraser, explores the notion of declining social capital in Australia.

Social capital, which may be defined as the connectivity and cohesiveness of a community, is one of a number of aspects of social sustainability which is inherently difficult to pinpoint or measure.  Indicators of social capital which are applied by Leigh include civic participation through organisational membership such as union membership or political party membership, along with participation in community activities such as volunteering or participating in local sports clubs.

The decline of social capital with which Leigh is concerned he in part attributes to our growing commuter culture, and the increasing distances – and associated times – people spend travelling to and from work.

Leigh’s hypothesis highlights the critical need for significant investment in public transport in western sydney. The issues associated with socio-economic deprivation in swathes of Sydney is exacerbated by chronic underinvestment in transport infrastructure. While I would not wish to simplify what are inherently complex social issues, one thing is clear. People forced to suffer long journeys to work have so much less time and energy to become involved in those activities which may enhance social capital in suburbs where it is so desperately needed.